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Research Proposal Sample- Oxford University

Research proposal sample

The purpose of the research proposal is to demonstrate that the research you wish to undertake is significant, necessary and feasible, that you will be able to make an original contribution to the field, and that the project can be completed within the normal time period. Some general guidelines and advice on structuring your research proposal are provided below. Research proposal should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words depending on the programme (excluding the reference list/bibliography).

  • Title sheet

    The research proposal title sheet should include your name, the degree program to which you are applying and your research proposal title.

  • Topic statement

    The topic statement of the research proposal should establish the general subject area you will be working in and how your topic relates to it. Explain briefly why your topic is significant and what contribution your research will make to the field.

  • Research aims

    The aim of the research proposal should set out the specific aims of your research and, if appropriate to your discipline, the main research questions.

  • Review of the literature

    Literature review in the research proposal should provide a brief review of the significant literature and current research in your field to place your own proposed research in context and to establish its potential contribution to the field.

  • Study design / theoretical orientation

    Outline the theoretical approaches taken in your topic and indicate which approach or approaches you propose to use in your research and why you plan to do so.

  • Research methods

    Briefly describe your proposed research methods, including the type of information and sources to be used, the main research methods to be employed, any resources needed and any ethical or safety issues identified.

  • Tentative chapter outline

    You may wish to include a tentative chapter outline if available at this stage.

  • References/Bibliography

    List all publications cited in your research proposal using a suitable academic referencing system. (Not included in the 3,000 word count.)

Beginning research students are often anxious about page count of the research proposal. Again, the number of pages depends on the project. But as a guide, since the research proposal is to be between 500 and 2000 words, we may suggest 1.5 pages for introduction, 2.5 pages for methodology, 3.5 pages for literature review and 1.5 for the rest. But, as you are free to merge different sections such numbers may be more distractive than helpful.


Remediation of Misconceptions about Chemical Equilibrium:  a CAI Strategy


Teachers and researchers have noted that students continue to hold onto naïve ideas about natural phenomena even after they have been instructed on them. These naïve ideas are in marked contrast with scientific conceptions and have been called misconceptions (Osborne & Wittrock, 1985). Misconceptions have been shown to be very resistant to change and many students complete their schooling while still clinging to these misconceptions. They may use the scientific explanations in examinations, but in their beliefs the misconceptions linger on (Novak, 1988). 

The crucial role misconceptions play in impeding concept learning is well established.  Many studies continue to document misconceptions in various science topics. However, very few explanatory studies have been conducted to investigate the nature of conceptual change and stability. Practical instructional strategies based on conceptual change theories have not been fully researched and their curriculum implications remain in the realm of the unknown. 

The purpose of this study is twofold. First, to develop a computer‐assisted instructional (CAI) strategy based on a model of conceptual change to challenge previously identified misconceptions in a topic which is generally found to be difficult to learn. Second, to determine the effectiveness of the developed strategy in a sample of 500 Year‐12 students who have misconceptions in that area. The topic area chosen is chemical equilibrium– an area in which earlier researchers have identified 14 different misconceptions. (Hackling & Garnett, 1985). 

Chemistry at school level. Non‐traditional methods of remediating misconceptions, especially the use of CAI, have not been pursued. This study, therefore, may suggest useful ways of teaching this topic. Additionally, the study may contribute towards improving the way students are taught and curriculum materials are produced.

More specifically, the research questions of the study are the following:

What misconceptions are held about chemical equilibrium by Year‐12 chemistry students across Western Australia?
What are the challenges in developing a CAI package to address the misconceptions in chemical equilibrium? What features are judged by the students as most effective?
To what extent are misconceptions of chemical equilibrium changed by working through the CAI package?
How does the incidence of misconceptions about chemical equilibrium compare with previous studies?
What are the views of chemistry teachers on the utility of such a CAI package?

Proposed Methodology

In this study, I propose to use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to gather data. The incidences of misconceptions are more amenable to data collection by quantitative methods.  Participant observation, interviews and reflection are more suited when the data need to be richer, as for example, in the case of attitudes to use the CAI package.  


The subjects for this study will be Year‐12 students in Western Australia studying for the School Board examinations. My plan is to sample all schools where there are Year‐12 students and computer laboratories. 

Pencil and paper tests and an interview instrument developed by Hackling and Garnett (1985) will be used in pretest and posttest phases of the research. An interview instrument will be developed for the teachers, piloted and used.


CAI PackageThe CAI package will be developed to address each misconception identified by Hackling and Garnett (1985). The nature of the misconception will be analyzed to identify the chemical propositions misunderstood by the students. Then the strategy of Posner et al. (1982) would be implemented to bring about the conceptual change. 

Procedure Students will be exposed to traditional instruction in chemical equilibrium and then tested to identify misconceptions. Students will then work through CAI package. A post test will be administered. The data from these will be triangulated by interviews with students and teachers. Control groups may be used. 

Data analysis

The data will be analyzed by statistical packages, interviews transcribed, and coded to obtain the outcomes. 

Limitations and delimitations

Issues with the study include the validity of generalization given that a particular topic is used. Further, the novelty effect and visuals may make the material easier to recall. 

Literature Review

In the past two decades researchers have found out that by the time students meet scientific explanations of natural phenomena in the classroom, they have already developed their own naïve explanations of these phenomena. Further, these preconceptions are often at odds with scientific explanations, resistant to change and impede the acquisition of scientifically correct conceptions (Cosgrove & Osborne, 1985).  Researchers have catalogued these misconceptions in many topics of science, found their nature and acquisition, persistence and change (Posner, Strike, Hewson & Gertzog, 1982; Osborne and Witrock , 1985).

White (1988) defines concept as a collection of memory elements that together can be grouped under a label and the pattern of the links between the elements (p.24).  Concepts that differ from scientifically correct ones have been variously called misconceptions, preconceptions and alternate conceptions (Pines & Leith, 1981). Novak (1988) noted that misconceptions are learnt very early in life from daily experiences. Hashweh (1986) has given explanations for the persistence of misconceptions.

Misconceptions about chemical equilibrium are found to be common in high school students (Hackling and Garnett, 1985). In particular, Camacho and Good (1989) and Hackling and Garnett (1985) have found over 14 misconceptions in chemistry students.  Because misconceptions are highly resistant to change, they are likely to persist into adulthood unless successful intervention strategies occur. According to Posner, et. al. (1982) there are four important conditions for conceptual change: (1) there must be dissatisfaction with the existing misconception as result of accumulated store of unsolved puzzles and anomalies;  (2) a new conception must be intelligible to the student; (3) a new conception must appear initially plausible and (4) a new conception should lead to new insights and discoveries.  

Hashweh (1986) proposed a model of conceptual change which stressed the conflict between misconception and scientific conception within the cognitive structure itself. Van Hise (1988) suggested a method of engendering conceptual change based on three steps: (1) provide opportunities to make student ideas explicit and give them opportunities to test those ideas; (2) confront them with situations where their misconceptions cannot be used as explanation, (3) help them accommodate the new conception by providing opportunities to test them and experience their fruitfulness. 

Several researchers have suggested the use of computers in conceptual change instruction (Reif, 1987). The unique capabilities of computers can be exploited to implement instructional strategies impossible with other teaching methods. They include the capability to show time‐dependent processes, dynamic graphics and maintain records of student activity on the package. They can also focus on particular misconceptions depending on student. Thus, it seems very plausible that a computer package especially developed to teach chemical equilibrium can effect conceptual change in students using them.  Time Table for Completing the Thesis


1. Camacho, M. & Good, R. (1989). Problem solving and chemical equilibrium: successful versus unsuccessful performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 26, 3,  251 – 272.

2. Cosgrove, M. & Osborne, R. (1985). Lesson frameworks for changing children’s ideas.  In Osborne, R, & Freyberg, P. (1985). Learning in Science. Auckland: Heinemann.

3. Hackling, M.W. & Garnett, P. (1985). Misconceptions of chemical equilibrium. European Journal of Science Education, 7, 2,  205–214. 

4. Hashweh, M. (1986). Toward an explanation of conceptual change. European Journal of Science Education,  8, 3,  229–249.

5. Novak, J.D. (1988). Learning science and the science of learning. Studies in Science Education, 67, 15. 77–101.

6. Osborne, R. & Wittrock, M. (1985). The generative learning model and its implications for science education. Studies in Science Education, 12, 59–87.

7. Pines, A.L. & Leith, S. (1981). What is concept learning? Theory, recent research and some teaching suggestions. The Australian Science Teachers Journal, 27, 3, 15–20.

8. Posner, G., Strike, K. Hewson, P. & Gertzog, W. (1982). Accommodation of a science conception: toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 2, 211–227.

9. Reif, F. (1987). Instructional design, cognition and technology: applications to the teaching of science concepts, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24, 4,  309–324.

10. Van Hise, Y. (1988). Student misconceptions in mechanics: an international problem?  The Physics Teacher, November, 1988, 498–502. White, R. (1988). Learning science. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. 





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